Written when this amazing revival was in full flow Rev. S. B. Shaw gathered together various authentic reports that were written in the early months of the Welsh Revival with the express purpose of stirring up Christians to increased faith and prayer.
Along with all the other popular accounts, S. B. Shaw succeeded in his task and set the world aflame with a holy desire to seek more of God.
This is the only picture of S. B. Shaw we can find.
We have included 7 of the 40 chapters.
Wales is in the throes and ecstasies of the most remarkable religious awakening it has ever known. It is nothing less than a moral revolution. The last great movement of the kind which swept over the land was in the years 1859 - 60, a period that was memorably fruitful for the cause of Christ throughout the kingdom generally, notably in the north of Ireland. There are many still living in Wales who speak of those good old times with pardonable pride and thankfulness. They are the fathers and mothers in Israel today. I have heard some of these testifying in recent meetings in the Rhondda Valley. With one consent they declare that even that remarkable season of refreshing from the presence of the Lord — which witnessed thousands brought to decision for Christ — pales before the glory of this modern Pentecost.
Already, in five or six weeks, the fire has spread to six or seven counties and bids fair to find its way — as did Daniel Rowlands, of Llangeitho, that great evangelist of the eighteenth century — into every parish in Wales, from Cardiff to Holyhead, and from Presteign to St. David’s. What has largely contributed to the rapidity of the movement is the widespread publicity given to it in the press — both secular and religious. Every day for weeks past the South Wales Daily News and the Western Mail, the two leading dailies fn South Wales, have devoted three or four columns to reports of it. The evening papers, too, are full of it. Formerly, as someone has observed, they devoted whole columns to sport, and a paltry paragraph or two to anything concerning the kingdom of Christ. Now it is the other way about. What everybody is talking about, and anxious to hear about, in South Wales, is the revival, and the proprietors of the press are not at all slack in catering for the public taste.
The converts already number many thousands. Mr. Evan Roberts calculates that in the mining valleys of South Wales alone — that south-eastern comer of the principality which is well marked on any railway map — there have been at least 10,000 conversions. And if we add to this the harvest gleaned in various other places north and south, the number cannot be far short of 20,000. For, be it understood, there are many districts in the principality where a mighty work is going on, and where meetings are held almost day and night, of which no reports have been forth-coming in the press. The counties of Carmarthen and Cardigan, e.g. as also many places in North Wales, are all astir and sharing in the general blessing. The movement has penetrated into some of the remotest comers of the principality, and many a distant lonely valley is echoing the glad music of salvation. Figures, of course, are not everything; but for Wales these figures are astonishing, when it is borne in mind that they represent net additions to the membership of the churches which already numbered upon their books about one half of the entire population of the country, and that the margin left for aggression, therefore, was nothing like as large as would be the case, say, in England. Moreover, the churches themselves have experienced a great quickening, and many, both ministers and people, have testified to a new joy and power, and to receiving a baptism of the Holy Spirit.
The question is frequently asked, How and where did the revival originate? Recent as it is, its human and historical origin seems to baffle discovery. But, truth to tell, there is not much anxiety on that score. Everybody seems to be so interested in its progress as not to be troubled about its origin. But it has been definitely ascertained that for some time previously there was a yearning in the heart of many devout and Godly people for such an awakening, and amongst the faithful an expectation of it. For, religious as Wales was considered to be — with its love of the Bible, the sanctuary, sacred song, and the Sabbath-school — there were ominous signs of the times which made the faithful watchers on Zion’s hilltops tremble, and drove them to their knees in earnest prayer. Prayer soon became prophecy. Only three months ago one of the saintliest of Welsh preachers publicly proclaimed from the pulpit his absolute conviction that a mighty outpouring of the Spirit was at hand, and that marvellous times would follow. Well —
The Marvellous Has Happened,
and happened in unexpected fashion. For weeks past meetings have been going on in various parts of the country, and, in numerous instances, have been protracted into the small hours of the morning. The extraordinary thing about these meetings is their unconventional character. There is no organisation, no program, no precentor, no presiding elder! Everything is left to the direction of the Holy Spirit Preaching, in the usual acceptation of the word, has, for the time being, been entirely discarded, and is superseded by singing, prayer, and general testimony.
A wonderful revival is sweeping over Wales. The whole country, from the city to the underground colliery, is aflame with gospel glory. Police courts are hardly necessary, public houses are being deserted, old debts are being paid to satisfy awakened consciences and definite and unmistakable answers to prayer are recorded.
The leader in this great religious movement is a young man twenty-six years of age, Evan Roberts. He was a collier boy, then an apprentice in a forge, then a student for the ministry. But all his life he has yearned to preach the gospel. He is no orator, he is not widely read. The only book he knows from cover to cover is the Bible. He has in his possession a Bible which he values above anything else he has belonging to him. It is a Bible slightly scorched in a colliery explosion. When the evangelist was working in a colliery he used to take his Bible with him, and while at work would put it away in some convenient hole or nook near his working place, ready to his hand when he could snatch a moment or two to scan its beloved pages. A serious explosion occurred one day. The future Welsh revivalist escaped practically unhurt, but the leaves of his Bible were scorched by the fiery blast. Evan Roberts scorched Bible is a familiar phrase among his friends.
Little more than a month ago Evan Roberts was unknown, studying for one of the Welsh colleges at New-castle-Emlyn, so as to prepare for the Calvinistic Methodist ministry. Then came the summons, and he obeyed. He insists that be has been called to his present work by the direct guidance of the Holy Ghost. At once, without question and without hesitation, he was accepted by the people. Wherever he went hearts were set aflame with the love of God.
Here is a vivid report of one of his meetings, given by a newspaper representative:
The scene was almost indescribable. Tier upon tier of men and women filled every inch of space. Those who could not gain admittance stood outside and listened at the doors. Others rushed to the windows, where almost every word was audible. When, at seven o’clock, the service began, quite 2,000 people must have been present. The enthusiasm was unbounded. Women sang and shouted till the perspiration ran down their faces, and men jumped up one after the other to testify. One told in quivering accents the story of a drunken life, a working collier spoke like a practised orator: and one can imagine what a note the testimony of a converted gipsy woman struck when, dressed in her best, she told of her reformation and repentance. At ten o’clock the meeting had lost none of its ardour. Prayer after prayer went up from those Welsh hearts with almost dreary persistence. Time and again the four ministers who stood in the pulpit attempted to start a hymn, but it was all in vain. The revival has taken hold of the people, and even Mr. Roberts cannot hold it in check. His latest convert is a policeman, who, after complaining that the people had gone mad after religion, so that there was nothing to do, went to see for himself, and bursting into tears, confessed the error of his ways, and repented.
Meetings such as this are being repeated every day, and the enthusiasm is still spreading. While there has been no organisation, no elaborate preparation for this mission, in the ordinary sense of the word, there is a strong belief that it is the direct result of earnest prayer. A prominent member of a Newport Baptist church, who has followed the movement with close interest and deep thankfulness, declared the other day the revival was the result of the praying by the young women who had been engaged in it for some months. Even Roberts had, he said, been praying for thirteen months for that wave to come, and he related how the young man was turned out of his lodgings by his landlady, who thought that in his enthusiasm he was possessed or somewhat mad. He spent hours praying and preaching in his rooms, until the lady became afraid of him, and asked him to leave.
It may be observed that the dominant note of the revival is prayer and praise. Another striking fact is the joyousness and radiant happiness of the evangelist. It has been remarked, that the very essence of his campaign is mirth. To the rank and file of the church ministers this is his most incomprehensible phase They have always regarded religion as something iron-bound, severe, even terrible. Evan Roberts smiles when he prays, laughs when he preaches. Ah, it is a grand life, he cries. I am happy, so happy that I could walk on the air. Tired? Never! God has made me strong. He has given me courage.
He is a leader who preaches victory, and shows how it may be won — victory over the dull depression and gloomy doubt of our time. Is it surprising that followers flock in thousands to his banner? It has long been felt in Wales, as else-where, that the time was ripe for a great religious revival. As the Rev. H. M. Hughes, a Congregational minister in Cardiff, recently pointed out, all efforts, movements, and organisations did not stem the flood of evil or stop the growth or pleasure-seeking and Mammon worship. A generation had risen that had not seen the arm of God working as it had done in 1849 and 1859.
Now, to all appearances, the revival has arrived, and it has many of the marks of previous great awakenings. Strong men are held in its grip; the Spirit of God stirs to their very depths whole neighbourhoods and districts. There is a tumult of emotion, an overpowering influence, and a conviction of sin that can only be attributed to Divine agency. Personal eloquence, magnetism, fervour or mental power do not account for it. The only explanation is the one which the evangelist gives — it is all of God. And it has already done infinite good in places far away from its immediate locality. Men are everywhere thinking, talking, discussing religious topics, and at last God, Christ, and the soul have to some degree come to their own. This is all gain. The revival seems to work especially among young people. Its form, which is that of prayer, praise, and personal testimony, and its absence of method, make it the most methodical expression of the emotions of young hearts aflame with the love of God.
This mighty movement must be seen to be understood. A sense of awe came over me again and again as in a large chapel, on a weekday afternoon, I saw a large, deep gallery surrounding the chapel literally packed with men. They were manly, intensely earnest faces, not looking around or talking one to the other, but with one consent utterally taken up with God. The body of the chapel was also crowded with men and women of all classes, with but one purpose — TO MEET GOD.
There was no opening of the meeting; the hearts were full, and burst with prayer and praise to a God felt to be in our midst. One gentleman who had come from Oxford to see the work, said: These men are not praying to be heard of man, it doesn’t matter to them what people think of them; they are thinking about the answer, not about the hearers; and it was true. At times a wave of power, without any human instrumentality, or anything external to cause it, would sweep over the mass of the people, and spontaneously almost the whole company would pray aloud, no one heeding the other, and without the slightest confusion. Everyone was absorbed with God; but in the midst of it, no one dealing with them, a man here, a woman there, would yield to God, and in a few minutes stand up and give praise that they had found the Lord. Sometimes singing and prayer would go on together, but there was no real confusion — the praying was not to man, and the singing was not to man But such singing is rarely to be heard. It was perfect time and perfect harmony; often the same hymn (never given out, but started spontaneously), sung in English and in Welsh at the same time, and sung over and over, until it penetrated. There was no organ, nor need for one, when men — for the women were too few to make much impression — sing unto the Lord in this way, an organ is out of place. It was heart-singing, singing with melody in your heart to the Lord Eph. 5: 19
I was present at three meetings in which Mr. Evan Roberts was not present, nor yet either of the young lady singers who help in some of the meetings. But God was there; and though Mr. Roberts was expected in the afternoon, not a murmur of disappointment was expressed — God was present, and He satisfied. In two morning meetings where I had the privilege to be, the same spirit reigned; as the people gathered, the prayers and hymns burst forth — no one led but the Spirit Himself, One and another entered the place, knelt down, and in a few minutes an intense prayer, or as intense a chorus or verse of a hymn was sung, or a text of Scripture or a chapter read — but all in the most perfect harmony and intensity. Mr. Roberts himself is as simple and natural as a child, he comes into the meetings, and in no way interferes with what is going on, and no one stops in prayer, singing, or testimony because he appears. He waits until there is a moment’s pause, and then speaks a few strong, simple words, with no apparent oratory, but an intensity which calls forth earnest responses from the congregation. Sometimes he asks a question, and they answer. He opens the Bible, but there is too much singing at the moment, and he quietly closes it, sits down out of sight, and remains in silent prayer. He has a real belief in the leading of the Holy Spirit, and knows how to wait on the Lord and wait for the Lord.
The proceedings were mostly in Welsh, but a kind man of God, or some kind sister, would translate for me, or put me in the way of understanding what was going on. There was prayer made in a little group close to me for a man in the gallery; it was quiet — a group kneeling while others were standing and singing around. Shortly that one in the gallery, knowing nothing of the prayer, got up and said he was saved. In the singing of the lady revivalists there is much power, and the same following of the Spirit. No one announces them; they simply await the opportunity. This is indeed the mighty hand of God.
Man is at a discount. ‘The Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.’ We are reminded of that day when the Holy Spirit came down upon the hundred and twenty on the day of Pentecost. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. No intellectual treatises, no trained choirs needed, when God the Holy Ghost can find yielded, obedient hearts to occupy, and tongues through which to speak. Drunkenness, swearing, stealing, quarrelling, flee before the presence of the Lord in His people. What is the secret of this movement? On mans part, believing, persevering prayer; on God’s part, the promised answer. — The Eleventh Hour.
The last issue of The Methodist Times has brought me much correspondence, revealing the widespread interest in the revival. Perhaps the most touching and suggestive letter is from a probationer, who says: Yesterday my Quarterly Meeting very kindly offered to send me to the scene of the revival for a week in view of the missions I am under-taking here. Like you, I believe the revival is a manifestation of God, and I look forward to my visit as a supreme opportunity for getting a personal blessing, and trust I may return, like one of Samson’s foxes, to burn the world out with the sweet gift of fire. What a blessed awakening awaits England if our people will realise the infinite possibilities of prayer and the unspent resources of God. It is almost impossible to exaggerate the demand for well-authenticated news. Last week a reporter, having heard that a journalist of world-wide renown had been spending Sunday at Maerdy, and was staying in Cardiff on the Monday night, telephoned from a distant town to one hotel after another till he found him, and was then informed he had gone to bed. Never mind, tell him I must speak to him now. The victim was dragged from his bed to the telephone, only to be asked, What do you think of the revival?
Not the least interesting part of one’s experience is the journey thither. At every wayside station you pick up pilgrims, many of them ministers, and from one end of the train to the other you have revival talk and song. Those who know Wales know how the denominations are duplicated, and how pronounced and even bitter have been denominational jealousies, especially in the small towns. For the time being all these distinctions are forgotten. You find yourself talking to a brother minister, and in a few moments you are rejoicing with him in the —
Pentecostal Power That Has Come
upon his church and neighbourhood. You don’t know to what sect he belongs, and you don’t care, and when you have left him you awake to the discovery that whilst you have asked him many things it has not occurred to you to ask him that. Like you, he is anxious that the Spirit may be glorified and the community regenerated, and that is enough to satisfy your heart. The movement is as interdenominational as the air, but the results are not. People are joining the churches by scores and hundreds. In many cases the membership is doubled. This is as it should be.
The spontaneity of the work is glorious, and the lack of organisation is most refreshing. It is all so novel, and So contradictory to what we are accustomed to regard as essential. There is no creaking of the machinery. The stir is caused by the blowing of the wind — the breath of Heaven. Where all is so black and grimy, and the one cry is for cleansing, we all felt we could understand the fervent ejaculation of the simple-hearted collier, ‘Lord, this is Thy washday’, and forgive the familiarity. The absence of advertising posters and window bills causes no confusion. Everything is advertised by living witnesses and signs following. You walk, as I did, into a town of 14,000 inhabitants, while there are at least twenty chapels, and you ask the first person you meet, ‘Where is the meeting? ’ and he tells you. The only advertisement I have seen was in another district, and was the most significant thing of the kind I have known in these modern days. As I walked down the streets of Aberfan and Merthyr Vale last week I read in the shop windows:
Merthyr Vale Chamber of Trade
This Establishment will be CLOSED
Thursday, December 15, Owing to the visit of Mr. Evan Roberts.
They told me the same applied to the two pits in the neighbourhood. On the previous day I saw what I have often seen in Roman Catholic countries, but never before in this Protestant land. Seven chapels were open throughout the day for prayer and worship, and people walked in and came out as they felt inclined during those continuous services. Four of those chapels were crowded and two of them were densely packed. I got into the schoolroom of one, and found the people standing rows deep, but I could not get near the chapel door. Presently the school door was locked, but it made no difference. People opened the window and came through in orderly fashion till every vacant square foot was utilised. I said, If there’s a way in, there’s a way out, and out I shot and adjourned to one of the seven open sanctuaries where a hearty meeting was conducting itself hour after hour without let or hindrance, in which I was soon moved to take part. These two small townships of Aberfan and Merthyr Vale in this narrow valley are on opposite slopes, separated only by the Taff. The united population is about 9,000. There are four public-houses, three of which are tied houses. Throughout the day they are in a state of semi-desertion. The coffee tavern is besieged at all hours, and the swarming visitors, who cannot get in, satisfy their hunger by purchases at the grocers and fruiterers. For beds they flee to other towns, and take what they can get. I interviewed the landlady of one of the pubs, who told me she was against the revival, and —
Preferred Ordinary Religion.
I asked her why, and she said that on one night the enthusiasts gathered outside her establishment, and sang heartily, and then prayed fervently that God would have mercy on the prodigals inside — and her customers were not prodigals, and were not likely to be.
As soon as the policeman could release himself from the society of the barmaid, standing at the door of the largest and noisiest public house in the centre of town, I interviewed him. He assured me that foul language and drunkenness had greatly diminished, and that his own duties (and evidently the barmaids) were considerably lightened. He added, The barmaid has just told me that the publican and his wife have gone to the service, and that is a new thing for them. Is there much diminution in his receipts? I asked. Oh, yes; but he puts it down to the approach of Christmas, and to the fact that the colliers are saving their wages for the time of feasting — but others know differently, he remarked with significant emphasis. On inquiry of the trades people, they also admitted that their sales were not what they should be. How is that? Well, you see, people are paying their debts and settling old scores. It will be all the better for us in a little while.
I talked also to pit-men who had the same story to tell of amendment and reformation. Having obtained these facts from the business and trading community, I asked the local ministers what reports they had to give. I found that for three weeks previous to the visit of Evan Roberts they had conducted among themselves mission services, that hundreds had professed conversion, and that all the churches had been daily gladdened by the addition of those who were being saved.
What sort of converts are they? I asked. Mostly backsliders, said a man in the street. When a church is not aggressive it consoles itself by saying that it is just about holding its own. What a false notion! Mostly backsliders, tells another tale.
It seems to me that God has now given to His church in Wales an advantage over the enemy similar to that which the Japanese have acquired over the Russians by the capture of 203 Metre Hill. God’s people are now sweeping these Welsh hills and valleys with a searching fire, that is devastating the strongholds of sin, and in some instances is leading to almost wholesale capture. Evan Roberts did not arrive that day till five o’clock, when services had been in progress for about seven hours. I did not see him. I did not attempt to see him. I had my turn previously, and I was glad to be of some service in chapels that he could not visit. His coming constituted a great field day. But —
The Victory Had Bern Gained
in the previous weeks, and the attack will still be renewed in the days to come, and there will be further fighting all along the line. The fire is not spent, and the ammunition is not low.
I always feel that I want to join in the ‘Diollch Iddo’ when I see the crowds of men, and specially of young men, at these services. There is sure to be a certain amount of reaction in the days to come, judging by past history, but thousands of these men have got a blessing they will never lose, and an inspiration that will make them grand fishers of men. It will give to us all renewed faith in prayer, for this is emphatically a praying revival. Evan Roberts told me that prayer became so passionate and mighty at Caerphilly that at midnight a number of men formed themselves into a praying “Get-them-out-of-bed brigade”, and in an hour or two three of the sinners prayed for became so miserable in bed that they dressed hurriedly and came on to the service and yielded to Christ there and then. After I have seen over and over again the complete abandonment with which men give themselves up to pleading, as if they were totally unconscious of any presence but that of Christ, and were quite unaffected by anything or anybody else, I can easily believe it. Even when I could not understand a single word I have been indescribably moved. How, then, must it be with the Father who knows all and loves all? Humanity in Wales is as frail as it is elsewhere, but I have had a new lesson in this text, The Spirit also helpeth our infirmity.
I have heard a young Russian offer his first prayer in English, and a young Welshman give his first testimony in English. He was the young man who said in broken English: When I was a boy and went to the seaside to bathe, and saw a big wave coming along, I just ducked. Friends, a big tidal wave is sweeping along this valley. Be sure you duck, and then you’ll get the baptism.
That, I suppose, is the preliminary stage, but if people will then proceed to plunge and to swim, they will be able to take full advantage of this glorious tide, for, as Ezekiel says, The waters were risen, waters to swim in, a river that could not be passed through.
Some people take exception to this revival because there are those who declare they see visions and hear voices. Of these you hear but little. You often hear prayer for illumination, as when a woman exclaimed, May we draw up the blinds of the soul, and let in the light! There is much figurative language like that in prayer which always evokes response. In these services everything else seems to gain by spontaneity of feeling and expression.
I heard what the Daily News representative aptly termed
“The Tabloid Sermon,”
by a young American, on Isa. 1:18. The people listened gladly to the text, but when he proceeded to say, There are five c’s in this verse, and I want you to see these five c’s — the call, conviction, communion, cleansing, and confession, some of them didn’t see it, and wearied before he got to fifthly. However, they managed to keep fairly still, and then roused themselves and us by one of their glorious songs. We felt that such ingenuity was a poor substitute for spontaneity.
Extraordinary incidents are as numerous as ever. At Cardiff a young man, who had been lost to his parents for three years, turned up at the very service where his father (a county magistrate) and his mother were praying for him. His father knelt at his side to help him to Jesus, but the son did not recognize him till they both rose to give praise! They then went together to find the mother, who in another part of the chapel was earnestly praying for her lost boy, and who was totally oblivious of anything and anyone around her. The scene was indescribably pathetic, and the joy of all was ecstatic.
At one of Evan Roberts’ meetings a young man told how he spent his early years at Oxford in training for a monk. He ran away to sea, and was absent for twelve years. He settled in business in Wales, and spent all his leisure in drinking-clubs and similar resorts. A month ago, when on his way to the club, he was pressed to go to chapel by a friend. He absolutely refused, but on repeated pressure by his friend he said, I’ll toss for it. Heads, I go to the chapel; tails, I go to the club. He tossed, and it came heads. He went to the chapel, and he was then and there converted. This was a man well known in his own town.
In the Coegnant Colliery 200 hauliers and miners joined in prayer and praise. Those who desired to confess Christ were asked to signify the fact by holding their lamps aloft. Lamps went up by the score.
And so I might go on, but perhaps I cannot do better than give a somewhat free translation by Mr. Thomas of some of the sweetest songs of the revival. The three verses selected are good specimens of what you repeatedly hear sung with such fervour:
(1) “Gwaed y Groes”, &c
Jesus Christ lifts up the weary,
With a smile divinely sweet,
Jesus Christ brings down the mighty,
Kneeling, trembling at His feet.
Send a breeze from Calvary!
(2) “Dyma Geidwad”, &c
Here’s a Saviour for the fallen,
Here’s a Healer for us all,
Here is One who loves forgiving
Sinners, damaged by the fall.
Praise Thee, Jesus,
Ever, for remembering me!
(3) “R Hwn Sy’n Gyru’r mellt Hedeg”, &c
Thon that sendest forth the lightning,
Thon that walkest on the sea,
Send the arrow of conviction
To these hearts, we pray to thee
Open wide our self-made prisons,
Send the firebrand from the flame,
Lift Thou up the weak and weary,
Teach the mute to praise Thy Name.
It is contrary to all precedent to have crowded revival services in the week before Christmas, but there are most hopeful signs that this outpouring, hitherto largely confined to the colliery districts, will descend copiously upon such important centres as Newport and Cardiff. Already we hear of many remarkable conversions in some of the town churches, and of well-attended prayer meetings in the large business houses; and when the Christmas holidays are over, and the New Year begins, we shall most probably be rejoicing over much more stirring scenes.
It Spreads To Cwmbran
The revival which has broken out in South Wales does not remain in that part alone, and it does not require the presence of Evan Roberts to infuse the spirit of this revival into the Christian Church. Extraordinary services have taken place in the Wesleyan Chapel at Cwmbran during the past fortnight. Cwmbran is situated exactly half way between Pontypool and Newport, and not far from the villages where the Spirit of God has been manifested so recently in such a remarkable way.
The first signs of the revival took place three Sundays ago, when after the sermon had been preached by the circuit lay agent on “Let me die the death of the righteous, he asked a few to testify for Christ, and one after another stood up and told what God had done for them. The last to testify was a brother who had been the greatest drunkard in the neighbourhood. He told them how God led him to see the light when he was quite drunk (a statement for which the writer can vouch), and had now kept him for two years. His words took a firm hold of his companions, of whom no less than six have surrendered all to Christ during the past week, some of them being notorious drunkards.
The meetings have not been carried on in the usual way. They have been opened by prayer and reading, with short running comments by Mr. A. Brace, a young local preacher, varied with invitations to come to the front of any with whom God’s Spirit was striving at the commencement and at different stages of the meeting.
What was and is remarkable right throughout the meetings is the spontaneity, on some occasions as many as half a dozen commencing to pray at one time, and continually brothers and sisters are on their feet to pray, waiting turns. One old brother attempted six times to pray, and each time was forestalled by someone.
It was a glorious sight to see sinners rising and coming to the penitent form seeking forgiveness. Amongst those who have confessed Christ is a young man who had been brought up in the Roman Catholic faith. After the singing of ‘Come to Jesus’, the question was asked, who will come to Him now? A man got up and shouted, I will, and then broke down. Then his wife came out to the penitent form, and all his children. Another case occurred during the singing of ‘Throw Out the Life Line’. A passer-by who was drunk was so affected by the singing that he turned into the meeting. It was wonderful to see the change that took place in him before the meeting was over. He came forward and confessed Christ, and when the meeting closed he was a sober man. To describe all the incidents would take too much of your space. Never has the Spirit of God been felt in such a powerful manner before. Up to the present there have been sixty converts, and the meetings are to continue.
Effects On Bridgend
Rev. J. Sharp, Tondy, Glamorgan, writes: This very gracious and spiritual wave of revival has reached the Bridgend Circuit. Last week, Mr. Dan Roberts and his helpers visited the Calvinistic Methodist Church, Aber Renfig, where united and overflow meetings were held. On Sunday all the churches were moved. At Tondy scenes were witnessed in the Sunday-school as had not been seen before. The whole time was given up to praise and prayer. The class-rooms were full of inquirers of all ages. The work was continued in the church in the evening, when several more volunteered for Christ. Monday brought the joyful news from Ogmore Vale, Maesteg, Bryncoch, Cefn and Fountain, of similar results. Many who have long been prayed for have yielded; back-sliders have come back, and many wonderful cases of conversion have taken place. The football field, the dance, and the dramatic entertainment have been given up, and other matters laid aside for the revival meetings.
It was into the peculiarly sacred atmosphere created by an hour and a half of intensely spiritual worship that Evan Roberts came at two o’clock. They prayed and sang, and sang and prayed, as if nobody noticed him, and yet, of course, everybody had. This absorption in worship just suited him, and he was much impressed by the devout waiting upon God, instead of the mere waiting for the evangelist. The people were now singing, Send the Breeze from Calvary’s Hill, and he asked them to sing it tenderly, and as they instantly and beautifully responded, everybody knew the prayer was answered.
He began to talk about that verse, For such the Father seeks, but he soon got to the theme of self-sacrifice, as suggested and required by the great love of which they had been singing. Do you say the call for self-sacrifice is hard? Not harder than for the Son to leave the Fathers house. Is it dark? Not darker than Calvary.
The transition from this to ‘When I survey the Wondrous Cross,’ was most apt and impressive, and the feeling was almost too intense to be endured. For an hour nearly every-thing had been in Welsh, and then the English were so stirred that first one and then another prayed and testified, and for the next hour it was nearly all English. Evan Roberts himself shed tears of gratitude and was moved to speak brielly in English, and told how he was receiving letters from England, Scotland, Ireland, Norway, France, Spain, America, and Africa.
After this the Welsh tongue prevailed, and one minister from North Wales thanked God that Snowdon was being shaken by the prayers of the quarrymen. And whilst nine or ten people were praying at the same time, without any semblance of disorder, the congregation sang very gently and softly in a faint undertone, in which the four parts were beautifully blended, Oh, send the Holy Spirit, Lord.
The effect of this soft musical accompaniment to the prayers of several voices cannot be described. It is deeply impressive, and often leads the soul into a quiet ecstasy that is truly of Heaven. I believe it would be impossible for us to imitate this special feature of the revival worthily in England I know one instance where it was attempted, and it was a ghastly failure, culminating only in a horrible medley of discordant noises suggestive of pandemonium, or worse. And there are one or two other features in which the Welsh excel, which we may well admire, but not imitate. We shall just prove ourselves ungainly and awkward in attempting to do what we cannot.
The evening meeting was at the other end of the village, at the Tabernacle. Here, too, there were about 1,500 people crammed into a chapel that would look very full with 900. The windows in the lobby were taken out to prevent suffocation, and the doors were wide open, but whilst this arrangement let in air, for which we were thankful, it also admitted sounds, for which we were not. Although a large overflow meeting was held at Horeb Baptist Chapel there was still a surging crowd in the street, and the police said there were thousands. This is very like an exaggeration, and yet there were probably more outside than there were in. The huge throng distressed and alarmed the babies and their mothers, and they all disturbed us, except when we were singing, and such glorious harmony nothing could disturb. It soothed the disappointed hosts outside, and as soon as we stopped Babel began again.
Ordinarily this would have been fatal to a really good meeting, and it was a very serious hindrance, but it was astonishing with what tact and patience and judgement Evan Roberts led us on step by step to disregard these distractions, till in the last half hour we gained a glorious victory, and finished the day with hallelujahs.
I found myself next to Rev. Llewellyn Morgan, of Neath Abbey, in the Swansea (Welsh) Circuit. The membership of his church was 142, and the revival has brought him seventy more, including several who had given up attendance at any place of worship. This is proportionately one of the largest increases recorded among our Wesleyan churches. One young man who prayed fervently was the organist of our little chapel at Pontardawe, and another lad of sixteen from the same place also prayed with wonderful force and passion. Both of these have only learnt to pray in the revival.
Among those who have gone to see for themselves what is going on in Wales, is Mr. Wm. T. Stead, the famous London editor, a man of quick insight and about as little likely to mistake mere excitement or fanaticism for spiritual power as anyone could well be.
The London Methodist Times says that this was Mr. Stead’s first visit to the scene of a religious revival, and one of its representatives interviewed him about it on his return. Here is the interview:
Well, Mr. Stead, you’ve been to the revival. What do you think of it?
Sir, said Mr. Stead, the question is not what I think of it, but what it thinks of me, of you, and all the rest of us. For it is a very real thing, this revival, a live thing which seems to have a power and a grip which may get hold of a good many of us who at present are mere spectators.
Do you think it is on the march, then?
A revival is something like a revolution. It is apt to be wonderfully catching. But you can never say. Look at the way the revolutionary tempest swept over Europe in 1848. But since then revolutions have not spread much beyond the border of the state in which they break out. We may have become immune to revivals, gospel hardened, or totally indifferent. I don’t think so. But I would not like to prophesy.
But in South Wales the revival is moving?
It reminded me, said Mr. Stead, of the effect which travellers say is produced on the desert by the winds which propel the sandstorms, beneath which whole caravans have been engulfed. The wind springs up, no one knows from whence. Its eddying gusts lick up the sands, and soon the whole desert is filled with moving columns of sand, swaying and dancing and whirling as if they were instinct with life. Woe be to the unprotected traveller whose path the sand-storm traverses.
Then do you feel that we are in the track of the storm?
Can our people sing? That is the question to be answered before you can decide that. Hitherto the revival has not strayed beyond the track of the singing people. It has followed the line of song, not of preaching. It has sung its way from one end of South Wales to the other. But then the Welsh are a nation of singing birds.
You speak as if you dreaded the revival coming your way.
No, that is not so. Dread is not the right word. Awe expresses my sentiment better. For you are in the presence of the unknown. I tell you it’s a live thing, this revival, and if it gets hold of the people in London, for instance, it will make a pretty considerable shaking up.
But surely it will be all to the good?
Yes, for the good, or for those who are all good. But what about those who are not good, or who, like the most of us, are a pretty mixed lot? Henry Ward Beecher used to say that if God were to answer the Lord’s Prayer, and cause His will to be done in earth as it is in heaven, there would be streets in New York which would be wrecked as if they had been struck by a tornado. Of course, it may be all to the good that we should be all shaken up: and tornadoes clear the air, and earthquakes are wholesome, but they are not particularly welcome to those who are at ease in Zion.
Sandstorms of the desert, tornadoes, earthquakes: really, Mr. Stead, your metaphors would imply that your experiences in South Wales have been pretty bad?
No, said Mr. Stead, Not bad at all. Do you remember what the little Quaker child said, when the Scottish express rushed at full speed through the station, on the platform on which he was standing? Were you not frightened, my boy? said his father. Oh, no, said the little chap, a feeling of sweet peace stole into my mind. I felt like that, rather But the thing is awesome. You don’t believe in ghosts?
Not much. I’ll believe them when I see one.
Well, you have read ghost stories, and can imagine what you would feel if you were alone at midnight in the haunted chamber of some old castle, and you heard the slow and stealthy step along the corridor where the visitant from the other world was said to walk. If you go to South Wales and watch the revival you will feel pretty much like that. There is something there from the other world. You cannot say whence it came or whither it is going, but it moves and lives and reaches for you all the time. You see men and women go down in sobbing agony before your eyes as the invisible Hand clutches at their heart. And you shudder. It’s pretty grim, I tell you If you are afraid of strong emotions, you’d better give the revival a wide berth.
But is it all emotion? Is there no teaching?
Precious little Do you think that teaching is what people want in a revival? These people, all the people in a land like ours, are taught to death, preached to insensibility. They all know the essential truths. They know that they are not living as they ought to live, and no amount of teaching will add anything to that conviction.
To hear some people talk you would imagine that the best way to get a sluggard out of bed is to send a tract on astronomy showing him that according to the fixed and eternal law the sun will rise at a certain hour in the morning. The sluggard does not deny it. He is entirely convinced of it. But what he knows is that it is precious cold at sunrise on a winter’s morning, and it is very snug and warm beneath the blankets. What the sluggard needs is to be well shaken, and in case of need to be pulled out of bed. Roused, the revival calls it. And the revival is a rouser rather than a teacher.
And that is why I think those churches which want to go on dozing in the ancient ways had better hold a special series of prayer meetings that the revival may be prevented coming their way.
Then I take it that your net impressions were favourable?
How could they be otherwise? Did I not feel the pull of that unseen Hand? And have I not heard the glad out-burst of melody that hailed the confession of some who in very truth had found salvation? Of course it is all very much like what I have seen in the Salvation Army. I was delighted to see that at last the Welsh churches are recognising the equal ministry of men and women. The surging waters are right on the very beach of the movement. There is a wonderful spontaneity about it all, and so far its fruits have been good and only good.
Will it last?
Nothing lasts forever in this mutable world. And the revival will no more last than the blossom lasted in the field in springtime. But if the blossom had not come and gone, there would be no bread in the world today. And as it is with the bread which Mr. Chamberlain would tax, so it is with that other bread which is the harvest that will be gathered in long after this revival has taken its place in history. But if the analogy of all precious revivals holds good, this religious awakening will be influencing for good the lives of numberless men and women who will be living and toiling and carrying on the work of this God’s world of ours, long after you and I have been gathered to our fathers.
I have just returned from a two days visit to the storm centre of the great Welsh revival which is sweeping over Wales like a cyclone, lifting people into an ecstasy of spiritual fervour. Already over 34,000 converts have been made, and the great awakening shows no signs of waning. All observers agree that the movement is fully as remarkable as the memorable revival of 1859-60. It is sweeping over hundreds of hamlets and cities, emptying saloons, theatres, and dance-halls, and filling the churches night after night with praying multitudes. The policemen are almost idle; in many cases the magistrates have few trials on hand; debts are being paid, and the character of entire communities is being transformed almost in a day. Wales is studded with coal mines, and it is a common occurrence to have prayer meetings held a thousand feet underground amid the tinkle of the horses bells and the weird twinkle of the miners lamps.
Mr. Lloyd George, a member of Parliament, and the fore-most Welsh statesman of the day, speaks of the awakening as a great earthquake. He says:
All those who love Wales must wish the revival God-speed. It is certainly the most remarkable spiritual movement this generation has witnessed. Personally I believe it is destined to leave a permanent mark on the history of our country. The most important thing to urge in connection with it is that the religious leaders of Wales should see in time that the great forces which have been aroused into activity should not be wasted in mere outbursts of emotion. Let them in time overhaul their denominational machinery, and adapt it to the new and greater demand upon its resources which has been created by this remarkable upheaval, which seems to be rocking Welsh life like a great earthquake.
The leader of the revival is Mr. Evan Roberts, a young man only twenty-six years of age, who was a collier, and was later apprenticed to become a blacksmith. Then he felt a call to the ministry, and was a student in a preparatory school when the Spirit came upon him in such power that he felt impelled to return to his native village of Loughor and tell the people of God’s love for them. He did so, and, as he spoke, the fire fell from heaven upon the community. The people were so inflamed that they crowded church after church until four o’clock in the morning. The flame spread from district to district throughout South Wales with almost incredible swiftness, and soon scores of towns were being shaken by the power of God. From the beginning, however, Mr. Roberts has been the leader of the movement, and wherever he goes the revival reaches fever heat. The foremost Welsh news papers devote columns to his meetings daily, and his photographs and souvenir post-cards representing him are sold everywhere. Some idea of his sudden fame may be gained from the fact that sixty newspaper representatives endeavoured to interview him in two days recently.
It was my good fortune to take two meals with Mr. Roberts, and to attend three meetings he conducted. But let me give the readers of the Witness my impressions of the meetings and of Mr. Roberts in order as they were formed during the visit.
At noon on Tuesday I wired one of the leading Welsh newspapers, asking where Mr. Roberts would speak that evening. The reply came back that he would be at Swansea for the next two days. At 2 p.m. I left Liverpool with an American friend, and we arrived in Swansea at 9: 30 p.m. Hastening to a hotel we found it filled with visitors, who had come to catch the fire of the revival. A second place we found in a similar condition, but at the third place we secured accommodation, and then hastened to the church, which was fortunately situated in the down-town district. It was 9:45 when we reached the place, and even at that hour there were some scores of people in the street seeking admission. But the gates were closed and guarded by policemen, for the church was already packed to the doors. Going up to one of the policemen I whispered that I was an American journalist, and that my friend and I were from Chicago. These words acted like a magic charm, for he at once asked us to come to another gate, where we were speedily admitted and ushered into the building. My first impression! How am I to describe it? As we entered the door I beheld a room, meant to seat about 700 people, crowded to suffocation with about 1,500. But this was not the chief thing that attracted us. Up in the gallery a young lady — almost a girl — was standing, praying with such a fervour as I had rarely, if ever, witnessed before. One hand was upraised, and her tones were full of agonized pleading, and though it was in Welsh, so that I could not understand a word she uttered, yet it sent a strange thrill through me. Then a young man arose, and with rapt upraised face prayed as though he were in the presence of the Almighty. The entire atmosphere of the room was white-hot with spiritual emotion, and my chief thought was: This is a picture of what must have occurred in the early church in the first century of the Christian era.
A hymn was now started, and my attention was riveted on Evan Roberts, who stood in the pulpit and led the music with face irradiated with joy, smiles, and even laughter. What impressed me most was his utter naturalness, his entire absence of solemnity. He seemed just bubbling over with sheer happiness, just as jubilant as a young man at a base-ball game. He did not preach; he simply talked between the prayers and songs and testimonies, and then rarely more than a few sentences at a time. Imagine a Christian Endeavour meeting where those present are wrought up to a pitch of holy enthusiasm until they are literally on fire, and you will have an accurate picture of the proceedings at Trinity Chapel that night.
To my surprise the meeting terminated at 10: 30. The reason for this, it was explained, is that Swansea is a city of nearly 100,000 population, and the people must go to their work early the next morning; and also that Mr. Roberts was usually ending the meetings at about this hour so as to avoid a nervous collapse.
The next morning my friend and I went to the place where Mr. Roberts was staying, and were not only successful in securing a cordial interview, but were also invited to have luncheon with him. In appearance the young evangelist is of medium height, slender, brown-haired. He is extremely nervous in temperament, and his pallor showed the strain of the meetings upon him. When asked for a message for America, he grasped my hand, and gave me the following:
The prophecy of Joel is being fulfilled. There the Lord says: I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh. If that is so, all flesh must be prepared to receive. (1) The past must be clear, every sin confessed to God, any wrong to man must be put right. (2) Everything doubtful must be removed once for all out of our lives. (3) Obedience prompt and implicit to the Spirit of God. (4) Public confession of Christ. Christ said, I, if I be lifted up will draw all men unto me. There it is. Christ is all in all.
The afternoon and evening meetings we attended were very largely like the first one, save that in each meeting the mood of Mr. Roberts was different. At the afternoon meeting, while describing the agony of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, he broke down and sobbed from the pulpit, while scores in the building wept with him. The meeting had been announced to begin at 2 p.m. but before 12 the building was packed, although it was at the edge of the city. It was with the utmost difficulty, aided by the police, that your correspondent and his friend squeezed themselves in at the rear door, and then we stood near the pulpit scarcely able to move an arm. The air was stifling, but the people minded this not a whit. They had forgotten the things of earth, and stood in the presence of God. The meeting began about noon, and went on at white heat for two hours before Mr. Roberts arrived, ending at 4: 30 p.m.
At the evening meeting Mr. Roberts was silent much of the time. For full twenty minutes he sat or stood motionless with closed eyes. But the meeting went on just as fervidly as though he were speaking. It was strange indeed to hear someone praying undisturbed while a hymn was being sung; or to hear two, three, or four engaged in prayer at the same time; yet, as has been so often remarked, there was perfect order in the midst of the seeming disorder. It was the Lord’s doing, and it was marvellous in our eyes! Presently a young girl — not over sixteen years of age — arose in the gallery, and began to pray. I understood not a word she said, but in a few seconds, in spite of myself, the tears were streaming down my cheeks. I looked up, and lo! old gray-haired ministers of the gospel were likewise weeping. There was a something in the very tones of her voice that lifted one above the world, and pierced to the core of ones heart. I learned later that she was pleading with God that certain people might be reconciled with her. She loved them, but they did not love her, and she pleaded that they might be led to do so that night.
It was nearly 10 p.m. when the most thrilling and beautiful incident of our visit occurred. A respectably dressed young man of about nineteen came down from the gallery, crying like a child, the tears streaming down his face as he tottered through the aisle towards the ‘set fawr’. He was nearly fainting when he got to the entrance to the big seat, and he threw his arms around the neck of the Rev. William James, the pastor of Ebenezer, which is the church he attends.
Pray for me! Pray for me! he shouted, as he embraced the minister, who was moved to tears. The young man dropped into a chair. Mr. Roberts, who had been sitting on a chair in the pulpit, was on his feet. Something seemed to have told him what was the matter, and his face beamed with joy. Down the pulpit stairs he proceeded, and, on reaching the young man, threw his arms around him in a most affectionate manner. Mr. Roberts talked to him, and in a few minutes both were on their way to the pulpit. The young man was in first. What a change! The symptoms of being over-come had disappeared. His face had never worn a brighter appearance! Is mother here? Is mother here? he shouted. A voice from the back of the chapel answered, Yes! Yes! She’s here!
At this point everyone in the audience was so deeply touched by the affecting scene that there was scarcely a dry eye to be observed. Someone started the Welsh hymn which is always sung when a person yields completely to God, and which has become the chant of victory of the revival, In thrilling and triumphant tones they sang fervently:
Diolch Iddo, diolch Iddo, diolch Iddo,
Byth am gofio, llwch as llawr.
Which being interpreted means —
Praises, praises, praises to God
Who has remembered such as we are.
When all was quiet, he said, Mother, I have had to give in! Yes, indeed! I tried to refuse, but I was compelled to submit!
A little later on he was calling for others to surrender, as it was grand. He would not give his mother any more trouble! The mother broke into prayer, and when her son recognised her voice, he shouted, Well done, mam! (Well done, mother.)
It is little wonder that Gipsy Smith, a promment English evangelist, after spending a Sunday in the midst of the revival witnessing the remarkable scenes, said:
My visit to Wales last Sunday deepens my conviction that the movement now passing over Wales is a great and blessed Scriptural revival, and ought not to be called The Welsh Revival, but The Religious Revival, for I believe it will shake England, and why not the world? This is the Acts of the Apostles up-to-date.
Numerous accounts have been given of the beginning of the mighty awakening, no two of which agree. Some attribute it to a young girl who spoke at a Christian Endeavor meeting with such fervour that her hearers were melted into tears, and the flame started there. Others declare that it began when Evan Roberts went back to his native town of Loughor two months ago, and set it on fire with his Spirit-filled preaching to accept Christ. But the fact is that the revival broke out in a score of places almost simultaneously, and Evan Roberts and the other young and fiery evangelists who have arisen during the last few weeks are largely the products rather than the causes of the awakening.
The true origin of the movement is probably to be found in the prayer circles which have honeycombed Wales for the last eighteen months. The people who had banded themselves together were crying out mightily for a revival, and God at length graciously answered the prayers of His saints And it is interesting to Americans to know how the prayer circles were started. A lady living in Australia read a book by Dr. Torrey in which he reiterated the statement that we must pray through. At that time Dr. Torrey and Mr. Alexander were conducting their great revival in Melbourne, the success of which was largely due to the 2,000 prayer circles which existed throughout the city. Shortly afterward the lady came to England and was the means of starting thousands of prayer circles throughout the United Kingdom, the object of which was to pray for a world-wide revival. The answer has come in part in the Welsh awakening, and may God speed the day when the fire will spread over all the United Kingdom, and over America, and throughout the entire world!
— From New York Weekly Witness.
1. The Revival in Wales (Methodist Recorder)
2. Evan Roberts Call from God
3. Report By Mrs. M. Baxter
4. The Revival in the West (Methodist Times)
5. A Meeting at Skewen
6. Report by Wm. T. Stead
7. Thirty-four Thousand Conversions in Wales
8. Drunkenness and Blasphemy Disappear
9. Influence on the Severn Valley Mission
10. The Welsh Revival (London Times)
11. God Hath Visited His People (Bright Words)
12. Revival Paragraphs
13. Welsh Revival and the Western Mail
14. Report of Special Correspondent in “Belfast Witness”
15. A Quickening Among All Classes.
16. Report of Rev. F. B. Meyers (London Christian)
17. Report by R. A. Torrey (Institute Tie)
18. Lessons of the Welsh Revival (Rev. G. Campbell Morgan, D. D.)
19. Selections from English Papers
20. Reports by Welsh Ministers (British Weekly)
21. The Revival in Wales (Methodist Times)
22. The Story of Evan Roberts Early Life
23. Revival Spreads in All Directions
24. An Incident of the Revival
25. The Welsh Revival (Gospel Message)
26. The Great Revival in Wales (Gospel Banner)
27. The Great Welsh Revival (The Soul Winner)
28. Seventy Thousand Conversions
29. The Atonement in the Welsh Revival
30. Comments on the Revival
31. Call to Prayer, and League of Intercession
32. Statement of Lady Henry Somerset
33. Skeptics Convicted and Converted
34. Far-Reaching Influence of Welsh Revival
35. The Soul -Travail, the Ground Work of Revival
37. The Tokens of a General Revival
39. The Revival Needed
40. The Welsh Revival
Chapter 5 - The Wesleyan Revival
Chapter 6 - The Great Revival of 1800
Chapter 7 - The Revival of 1858
Chapter 8 - The Revival in the Days of Moody and Sankey
Chapter 9 - Evangelical Christianity and the Security of their Great Republic and the Hope of the World
Chapter 10 - The Next Great Awakening